A television story that aired last week on KY-3, the local affiliate for NBC based in Springfield, was the topic of conversation last Thursday night at the regular meeting of the Seymour Board of Aldermen as South Ward Alderman Dan Wehmer asked City Administrator Hillary Gintz about details provided in an evening news report.
“According to KY-3, per a statement given to them by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, no type of a fuel leak was found at the Hot Spot by the DNR,” Wehmer said to Gintz. “And that, to me, is a huge problem. Because that information sure doesn’t match the information that’s been presented to members of this board.”
Gintz assured Wehmer that the news story aired on KY-3 didn’t match information that she had received from state officials.
“That’s just not accurate,” Gintz said, citing e-mails sent to her from the DNR, specifi cally one sent on May 13.
In that correspondence, Ken Koon, Tanks Section Chief for the DNR’s Environmental Remediation Program, said to Gintz, “They did some preliminary work about 10 days ago and found free product in the tank-pit observation wells. This forced them (the Hot Spot) to accept that they had a release of petroleum and must move forward. It also allowed the Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund (PSTIF) to cover the release and pay for costs.”
Koon added in his May 13 e-mail, “They are now working under the Administrative Order on Consent and have submitted a work plan for investigation. They will be drilling out there on the week of June 7, 2021. This will involve soil borings, groundwater well installation and some trenching to see if they can find where it intersects the sewer line. And they will also be doing some free product recovery.
“They will submit a report in 60 to 90 days and will tell us what needs to be done next.”
After sharing Koon’s information with the Seymour Board of Aldermen, Gintz asked Wehmer if he felt the information sent to her by the DNR matched what was broadcast earlier that week by KY-3.
“No,” Wehmer responded. “The problem is, I’ve had a lot of people in my office this week, all of them Seymour residents, who are terribly concerned about this issue because the story that aired on television essentially said there is no gas leak at the Hot Spot.”
“And that isn’t accurate,” Gintz said.
She noted that earlier that afternoon, she had sent a very detailed e-mail to Koon, asking for an explanation for the information given to KY-3, as the DNR was quoted as saying no fuel leaks were discovered at the local business, located at the intersection of West Clinton Avenue (Business 60) and North Frances Street.
“What we do know is the information that I shared with you from the May 13 e-mail (from Koon),” Gintz explained.
“We know they were at the Hot Spot on May 27. We know that on June 7, they were drilling. Now they’re back, as more crews were here on the first week of July, which I’ll guess is what led to the KY-3 visit and story. It looks like there was more drilling last week.”
Gintz added that she’s been in contact with State Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, who represents Webster County in the 33rd District.
“(Eslinger) got involved with this several months ago,” she said. “Without her help, I really don’t think we would know what we now know or that the DNR would have done what they have done.
“I know that after (the May 13 e-mail from Koon) was sent, Karla made it very clear that 60 to 90 days was not acceptable for the removal of the fan in front of Ralph and Frances Davis’ home on North Frances Street. I also know that Karla has been pushing the DNR for answers on this situation since we asked her to get involved.”
Wehmer thanked Gintz for her research and information on the issue.
“I’m certainly not mad at you, Hillary,” he said. “I’m not mad at KY-3, because that quote from DNR came in an on air interview. Frankly, I’m hacked off at the DNR. Yet again, they provide inaccurate information that just misleads the general public. This problem has been in their hands for nearly two years, and they still can’t get things right. It’s the definition of do-nothing bureaucracy.”
His tangent continued.
“The DNR sure can march down here and harass us on our sewer department, harass us on our water department, but they sure take their sweet time on solving a fuel leak that has literally terrorized a local family for years,” Wehmer said. “It’s evident where the problem is. The DNR admits it in an e-mail to you. But here we are today, and they have no plan for solving the leaking of fuel into the city’s sewer.”
Gintz told Wehmer that she was optimistic that her e-mail sent earlier that afternoon to Koon would be answered in a timely manner.
“I’m confident (Koon) will respond to me tomorrow,” she said. “He’s been good about getting back to me when I ask questions.”
Early Friday afternoon, Koon e-mailed a response.
He wrote to Gintz, “The Food Mart (Hot Spot) is admitting to a release at the station. They are still saying they are not impacting the sewer. Regardless, the responsible party (Food Mart) and the department entered into an Administrative Order on Consent that requires the Food Mart to investigate the extent of the release, including an investigation into the impact to the sewer.”
Koon’s e-mail to Gintz continued, “Work did commence at the site on May 27 but was delayed until June 10 because of the heavy rain events Missouri has been having. This work involved the placement of 8 (eight) soil borings and 5 (five) groundwater monitoring wells on the site that would be considered likely avenues for off-site contamination that are impacting the sewer. Currently, the owner has initiated the investigation to the on-site release with the soil sampling and well installation, has performed a visual inspection of their tank system by hiring a company to have a man enter the tanks and look for signs of failure and has recently replaced their old drop tubes and spill buckets (sometime in the week prior to the 4th of July), essentially updating their fuel-delivery system. The drilling that was being done on July 6 (last Tuesday) was a completion of the worked started May 27.
The department is hopeful that the data obtained from this initial site investigation will lead to a solution to the sewer problem but in the very least it will direct work to other areas that may lead to a discovery of the entry point and a final solution to the city’s ongoing sewer problem.”
Gintz said Monday that she’s optimistic that by the city’s next regular meeting of the aldermen, which arrives Thursday, Aug. 12, the DNR will have definitive information for the city on the issue.
“The city has been more than patient on this issue,” she concluded. “We’re now at the point where we need answers on how others are going to fix a very serious problem that we didn’t create.”